Most people know very little about Romania. In many cases, Romania is the same thing as Transylvania, a place where vampires roam the country, Dracula still rules the lands, hordes of stray dogs roam the streets while beggars and poverty and orphans are hidden behind the concrete walls of ugly communist buildings.

Is Romania a third world country? Is it dangerous to even think about living here? Are vampires sucking your blood if you go out after dark?

Originally, “third world country” referred to countries which, during the mid-70s (the Cold War era) were not aligned to either US & Allies or Soviets & Allies. However, today, “third world” mostly refers to developing nations – another politically correct term that basically refers to a very poor country which still has a lot to improve in many areas.

So our questions should turn from “Is Romania a Third World Country” to “Is Romania a Developing Country?”

The sad truth – for Romanians at least – is that yes, Romania is a developing country, according to the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (and common sense, I would say).

On a happier note, there are 139 countries considered “developing countries” out of the total of 196 countries in the world. Some big name countries that are still considered “developing countries” are China, Russia, Turkey or South Africa. On the same list are countries that I know very little about, like the Kyrgyz Republic, Lao PDR or Timor Leste.

So putting all these countries in the same bucket is definitely not the best choice. Yes, they might all be officially developing or third world countries, but you can’t compare Romania to China in terms of development, nor Vanuatu with Russia.

Thailand and Indonesia are, in the end, on the list of developing countries and there are so many world travelers and expats living there and loving every second of it. The same goes with most South American countries or even other European countries that are still “developing”: Croatia, Poland or Hungary.

So even though technically a country is considered a third world country, things will probably be not as bad as this unwanted title would make it sound.

Sure, you can’t expect to find in Romania the infrastructure, economic power and even the same mentality as you will get it first world countries – from the US to Germany and Australia, but it’s not really that bad either.

It all depends on what your expectations are. Most likely, if you come from a first world country or a country that’s more developed than Romania, you will feel the limitations more than others would. However, this doesn’t mean that Romania – or any other developing country on this planet – is not extremely enjoyable for most of the people.

No place out there is perfect and Romania definitely has its own problems. Depending on your situation, you will get hit with more or less of them. If you’re just traveling here for a few days or weeks, you will most likely enjoy the experience and feel that there’s nothing wrong with the country. If you plan to move here and spend more time – months or years – you will start to notice more and more areas that need to be developed.

But in the end it all depends on you: will you let these problems ruin your experience or consider them part of the package and leave them behind, enjoying the good stuff that Romania has to offer?

38 COMMENTS

  1. According to quite a few Americans that I know here, it is a third world country. According to my experiences, it’s not. Everyone has things that bother them or things they wish that were more like the US. It comes down to if the things that bother you outweigh the benefits of living here. For me, the little annoyances don’t add up to much and I love it here. For others it’s too much for them to handle, so they move on, or more likely, move back.

    • That’s really well said, Kevin! I don’t think there’s any country where you only have Pros and Cons. In the end, it’s up for everybody to decide if the Romania Pros outweigh the Cons. I’m happy to hear that you still love it here!

  2. There used to be another category called the “Second World” which included industrialized countries in the Soviet bloc of countries. These were supposedly more advanced than the Third World and, for the longest time, tried to compete with the so-called First World, that is Western Europe, the USA and Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. When the Second World collapsed, they definitely fell back into the developing category. After a while there came about a new term BRICS for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. These were supposed to be a step ahead of the other developing countries. Then we can’t forget the Asian Tiger countries… Oh, I’m exhausted, I’m tired of all these acronyms and categories. I noticed that for investment search purposes, Eastern Europe is considered a separate category from the developing world. Maybe that means they are a step above the other developing regions? The United States has just reneged on its Paris Accord obligations to fight global warming. What category does that put us in? A rogue nation trying to kill the rest of the world? A nation that can’t even provide health insurance for all its citizens? Okay, please excuse the rant. No, I think many people from developed countries like retiring in developing countries because their pensions/social security go so much further there. They get more bang for their buck and are willing to put up with some inconveniences. Usually, the happiest ones are those that “marry” into the society so they have a spouse to navigate the byzantine bureaucracies. Some of these destinations even have fairly decent health care systems. Romania definitely falls in this category and certainly deserves consideration for its natural beauty, cultural offerings and its European location. For many Americans, language presents a significant barrier to their feeling comfortable away from home. I personally feel Romanian is just as easy to pick up as Spanish. That means it does require effort but success comes pretty quickly. I have lived in Japan now for 14 years and have pretty much given up ever having a Japanese conversation above second grade level. But the Japanese wife sure has made life pretty pain-free here. Oh, “economical” and “economic” sound similar but they have very different meanings.

    • Very well said, Stuart. Rants and all, I think that your comment is spot on. Probably something similar goes for those growing up in the developing countries who want to experience life in a First World country – hence the love most Romanians have for the US mainly and other richer countries out there.

      Thanks for spotting my mistake in the text – I have corrected it now. Little by little, my English is getting better ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Currently in Guadalajara, Mexico, the country’s second largest city. American companies are everywhere. There are shopping plazas that many cities in the U.S. would be proud to have. And not far away are dirt poor neighborhoods and areas that look almost like bombed out areas of the Middle East. I’m renting a nice room on the property of a doctor in a gated community. And yet like most of Mexico have to put toilet paper in wastebasket and tap water not fit to drink. Busses are cheap but packed like sardines. And yet I’m able to watch House of Cards on Netflix. For me at least having access to reading material and entertainment in my own language, plus good food and a safe, clean habitation makes everything else tolerable. Although good weather is a real plus too. I’m about 25 miles from Lake Chapala area, which National Geographic says is world’s second best climate. Nice here too. So why would I consider coming to Eastern Europe? Better internet and in some countries lower costs. Not standing out so much, nice to blend in. Interested in trying new food. Close to places my wife wants to see i.e. Paris, etc. Cafe culture. I’d love to see all these countries develop into places people can live well, provide for their families, and have a future. But while developing they’re attractive financially, and the flip side is the retirees and entrepreneurs they’re attracting bring in hard currency.

    • Sounds really nice out there in Mexico! I’m not sure about temperatures out there right now, but I feel like Romania’s getting closer to matching them these days ๐Ÿ™‚ You’ll probably need a proxy to access the US version of Netflix, but the Romanian version has all content in English (with Romanian subtitles, if you want to try and learn a bit more) although we have fewer movies than in the US and many series are a bit behind on episodes.

      • Mexico’s Netflix is the same way, a lot of content in English, but not as much as U.S. one. I was watching Longmire in the U.S., can’t get it here. Thing about Mexico is if they can afford internet at home, or even live where it’s available at home, then they’re probably somewhat fluent in English. Just saw Wonder Woman here in English in what looked like a new theater. Quality throughout. But my stomach has had serious issues from most of the places I’ve eaten at. Hoping that’s not a concern in Eastern Europe!

        • That’s good. It’s called Montezuma’s Revenge here. My landlady fixes me meals, no problems. But she says she never eats at restaurants herself because she has no idea how long food has been sitting out. The problem corrected itself once I started just eating her food, plus a couple of places I trust. But that first month was rough.

  4. I don’t consider Romania a third world country and I have spent quite a bit of time there. A developing country? I feel Romania has a lot of upside meaning there is a lot of room for economic growth which I believe will come soon.

  5. Hey Calin:

    Where have I been? Oh, yeah watching the Comey hearings. The politics here are much better than anything on Netflix!;-)
    I applaud you for this article! You, as a Romanian, are quite honest about your country.
    From what I can glean surfing the web, these are my personal pros and cons, and indeed are as subjective as you can get.

    PROS:
    COST OF LIVING: A lot lower than the USA–yea!!!
    SAFETY: God love your country that you have very strict gun laws!!! At least I would feel safe going to concerts, movies, shopping malls, etc., etc. w/o the fear of being shot or blown up!!!
    “REAL” PEOPLE: The Romanians strike me as being honest. They “call it like they see it.” No real artifice. The Romanians don’t mince words. None of the “political correctness” which is so prevalent in the USA.
    HISTORY: So much! So many beautiful things to see and do.

    CONS:
    WEATHER: I live in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is much more, shall we say, wet and grey. (I like rain and overcast skies–I am strange that way.;-) Obviously, Romanian weather is
    is drier, sunnier and hotter. This is not a deal breaker. I would opt for a/c, and short-sleeve clothing. And of course during the cold winters (brrr!) I would make sure I have great heating and very warm clothing.;-)
    INFRASTRUCTURE: Well, it needs work. But then again so does the USA, so maybe it’s really a wash.
    NO RETIREMENT VISA: Still trying to figure out the “ghost” company to set up. Maybe Kevin “Brasov Reviews” can someday explain this for US ex-pat wannabees.;-) Never got a real answer from “Wandering Earl” what caused his not being able to renew his residence visa.

    Well, I’ll be watching to see if President Iohannis gets any press coverage when he visits “Humpty Trumpty” on Friday.

    Great article!

    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil,

      I am talking with a lady from Brazil who recently moved to Timisoara (and we’ll hopefully have her story on the website soon) and she’ll have a thing or two to say about the honesty of Romanians ๐Ÿ™‚ Because yeah, like in most countries out there, there are people who are not at all honest here either.

      Regarding the Infrastructure, if you’re planning to stick to the major cities, I don’t think that will be a problem in most of the cases. Things change a bit when traveling around is involved, but that is also not as bad as some might think – again, in most cases. Sure, there are villages and remote areas where you still have dirt roads, no electricity or running water.. but there’s also not much to see there for a tourist.

  6. Hello Calin:
    Where is “Kemx2”?
    That’s quite a move from Brazil to Timis! That would be a most interesting article.
    Hey, you are honest–right? I guess what I meant about “honest” is that your countrymen will speak their minds. If they don’t like something, they will protest. They won’t bullsh*t you. As for not telling lies–no one is immune to that.;-)
    So, did you see your president in the “Rose Garden” with Trumpet? I was very impressed with President Iohannis! He held his own against our blowhard president. I like his accent, too–it makes English sound exotic. I’ve read a lot of information about your president, and he is outstanding. (My only quibble would be his not taking a strong enough stance on LGBTQ equality and rights. At least allow civil unions as a first step. Probably, once my generation [ca. 1946 to 1964] “leaves the planet” and the younger people are in charge, things will get better for the LGBTQ community. Maybe this will be a subject for a future article?)
    I did NOT know that Romania has sent troops to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq! I feel so sorry they were sucked in to that quagmire!!! The US had no business sending troops there in the first place. (I will spare you my rant on that;-)
    Also, I really didn’t know about the Visa situation. Trump better grant a Visa waiver ASAP! I mean the moment Romania joined the EU that should have been granted then–or even sooner, once Ceausescu was gone, and Romania stabilized.
    I think it would have been nice if Trump had invited your president to his NJ estate for the weekend. Did your president bring his wife? I tried to watch as much as I could re his trip, but the US media didn’t really cover him.
    BTW: As much as I dislike living in the USA (D’oh!), you and “Wife and Son Romanian” should plan at least one trip here. You would need 21 to 30 days (or more if you include Canada). Let me know, and I can provide you with an itinerary (or at least the best places to see and “do”).
    ~Teil (USA)

    • Hello Teil,

      Iohannis has a really good accent compared to what many other politicians in the countries can deliver ๐Ÿ™‚ His wife is an English teacher, so many she helped him a bit ๐Ÿ™‚

      I honestly only briefly checked out what happened at the meeting and I don’t have an opinion. I know that the general consensus here in Romania is that our President did well.

      Regarding the Visa situation, I wrote about this in an article a while back: it was the reason why the EU threatened to add Visa requirements for the US citizens. As I had anticipated back then, this didn’t happen and I don’t think it will happen – but he had no other choice than to ask for Visa removal.

      Regarding the troops sent by Romania, they were just a few and most of them were actually medical staff and not fighting soldiers. As far as I know, they had to be sent because of the partnerships the country has and not necessarily because that’s what the people or even politicians thought it’s best to do.

      Finally, regarding the LGBTQ situation, things are looking better in reality than they do on paper. For example, we chose a trans man to be our son’s Mos (it’s something similar to a Godfather) and nobody commented. We were actually expecting some mean comments, but none followed, not even in private. And back then it was obvious that the person was born looking as a female.

      However, things are not as good as they could be. Recently, something called the “Coalition for the family” managed to squeeze into the constitution a definition of the family which really hurts any potential freedoms for LGBTQ people. It will take some time before the majority of people here in Romania will change. Except for the tradition and lack of knowledge or understanding of the situation, the Church plays an important role here: the Church is still extremely powerful in the country and influences a lot of people. Therefore, with so many honestly believing that being gay is a sin or something that can be treated (yes, in 2017!), it will be long before things will be much better. But at least they are all much better than 20-25 years ago when all the people in the LGBTQ community were usually hiding.

      Regarding your travel offer, I want to thank you for that. We’d definitely love to visit the US and it’s one of my dreams to do so, but it would still be above our means at the moment. But as soon as we’ll start looking more seriously at this, we’ll start asking around!

      • I too was impressed with Iohannis’s performance. It is interesting to see the different perspectives on the meeting between him and Trump. The Trumpsters (those who love him) emphasized that Trump’s policy towards NATO was “succeeding” because now Romania was going to increase its defense budget to 2% of GDP. The anti-Trumpsters focused on Iohannis’s totally contradicting Trump on whether they had discussed the visa liberalization issue. I told anyone who would listen that the whole exercise between Trump and Iohannis was actually to benefit Iohannis who has become a bit irrelevant in Romania now that the PSD controls the government. I doubt he can really give any assurances on increasing defense spending when the government purse strings are controlled by the PSD.

        What do you think of this soap opera (telenovela?) with Dragnea and Grindeanu? Shouldn’t the Romanian people go on the streets to support Grindeanu because he relented on the Ordonanลฃa de Urgenลฃฤƒ 13? Many say that is why Dragnea wants to get rid of him.

        • The cracks are starting to show in PSD. However, it was Grindeanu who was the Prime Minister when the mess with Ordonanta de Urgenta 13 happened, so people can’t and shouldn’t go on the streets for him. He might have grown a spine since then or he might simply have different plans than those of Dragnea who needs to be in complete control over everything.

          I really believe that after this – which is turning into a huge scandal – PSD will split into two, or at least they will lose some members. There are already signs of side-taking, with important names going one way or another. However, in the long run, I don’t think that PSD will have to suffer a lot from this, on the contrary. They will just get rid by the people who can’t take or follow orders.

  7. Glad to see you are promoting the down side of Romania C. ๐Ÿ™‚ My fear is people will come to enjoy Romania as I do and they will crowed me out. My wife is Romanian and very defensive of Romanian image portrayed by the media. I am winning her over with the idea that you do not want the world to know how wonderful Romania is as they would flood it and rune it for the rest of us. So I do agree with you C. Romania is a third world country full of Vampires and rabid dogs. Do not forget it is a communist and you could easily be tossed in jail by the corrupt police force. Stay Away!!

    “The sun shines through the kings window the same as the poor mans.. make of it what you will.” Thoreau

    • Haha, you’re not the only one fearing that more people will come and ruin the experience. But cheap countries in SE Asia are in a similar situation and doing OK apparently, so I don’t think that will happen. And anyway, Romania still flies under the radar in most cases.

      • When Romania starts making lists of the places jet-setters want to be then look.out. I moved to Santa Fe, NM in ’94 , not aware that Conde Nast travel magazine had recently named it the #1 place in the world to travel to. Houses listed for $75k at 9 a.m. were selling for $150k by 3 p.m.. Bunch of Hollywood stars and other very rich people moved in. It was nuts. I started seeing articles about Transylvania a couple of years ago and started worrying. The flip side is you have a region that has a lot of charm and will insure a steady stream of tourists forever. A lot of countries can’t say that.

        • Forgot to add that this sort of thing is going on in Tbilisi, Georgia. Georgia is very poor, so cost of living is low. Between that, letting you stay 360 days on tourist card, very good food and wine, and Tbilisi being an interesting place, expats have flocked there in droves. Now getting an apartment in much of the city is expensive. The more favored areas are seeing 1 bedroom apts going for $700 a month or more. Restaurants are expensive. Georgians are making money there but I imagine poorer Georgians are getting pushed out, just like they were in Santa FedEx.

        • Interesting! I didn’t imagine it could be that bad. We’ll see though. I still don’t think there’s much danger right now, although as situation in SE Asia is getting tenser, people might start looking for alternatives… and right now the cheap alternatives are in Eastern Europe.,

        • There’s a fantastic blog on Eastern European travel called Kami and the Rest of the World. Great photography and descriptions. To me there’s no comparison with SE Asia. Eastern Europe all the way! OK, Thailand has great food and beaches.

  8. Glad to see that l’ve been missed. I was traveling for a bit, but now back for a bit๐Ÿ˜€. I think in order to move to any country, you should be willing to adjust to changes, otherwise you just become very miserable. Spain is not considered a third world country, but they still have a long way to go to match the qualities of places like the U.S. I would live in Romania but for the weather. Harsh winters are a thing of the past for meโ˜บ๏ธ. We rejected both Budapest and now Poland for that very reason. I see that a lot of “developing” countries have other desirable qualities like health care and fast internet like you say, not to mention great food. Nigeria is a third world country as well, but life is good for the ones who can afford it.

    • I think life’s good if you have the funds in most places out there. But you’re right about the winters – it’s something I am dreading right now.

      We’re now experience a spell of really hot and nice weather in the country, but I was talking to my wife and realized that we’re getting a lot more cold weather than otherwise: starting November (or even as soon as October) you have to start wearing jackets and turn on the heat inside…. and it lasts up until early May or even more. Too little in terms of good weather ๐Ÿ™‚

      • I grew up in Florida, not a fan of cold weather. My wife loves it. Lived in Colorado for a year. Winter is the favorite of many there. They’re into skiing, snowmobiling, etc. With dry air I didn’t mind it so much. Huge difference in the scenic mountains with calm air vs out on the plains with howling wind. Have done that too.

  9. Hi Calin:
    Here’s another video which includes Romania. The host is a real card.;-)
    https://youtu.be/e2rKWZRjdHI
    I think it’s very nice that you included a trans man as part of your inner circle. (I can’t even fathom how difficult it must be for a person to be born in the “wrong body.”) The fact that he is accepted is certainly a sign of progress!
    Sadly, here in the US, there is a lot of harassment towards trans people. Even which bathroom they can has turned into a major kerfuffle.
    I know you wrote an article on the state of health care in Romania. Maybe in a future article you could write about “medical tourism.” I’ve heard there are many expert cosmetic dentists in Romania. Here in the US, every other commercial is for dental implants, which can cost more than $25,000 for a full restoration. Also, there are a lot of commercials for “body sculpting.” This includes facelifts, liposuction, etc., etc. Cosmetic surgery here is outrageously expensive, partly due to the cost of medical malpractice. (The US is notoriously litigious.) I know Argentina, India, South Korea are well known for more reasonable costing plastic surgery. Does Romania have well-trained plastic surgeons? (I am turning 60 in a few months, and I am “looking” to get rid of my eye bags–even though on a rare good day, I am told I could pass for 49 [only after promising a nice dinner;-])
    Thanks for a great web site!
    ~Teil (USA)
    p.s. I wonder what your president really thinks of Trump? One person said she felt the need to shower after leaving a meeting with Trump.

    • Hello Teil,

      That video you found is really, really old. By the looks of things, it’s filmed in the mid 90s probably, so many things have changed and are better today.

      Regarding the medical costs, they are way lower than in the US for sure. I don’t know if medical tourism is a thing here yet, but it could be soon. I also don’t know anything about plastic surgery, but looking at the Romanian TV channels shows that there are definitely some skilled surgeons here as well ๐Ÿ™‚

      Also, I don’t know about a full dental restoration, but I am sure it won’t be anywhere near $25,000. I visited my dentist last week, for example, and paid 100 lei (around $25) for getting a cavity cleaned. It was a minor intervention – if it’s a bit more work, it’s usually about $50. I know that an extraction is between $10 – $25. And unlike in the US, they don’t put you to sleep when they do it, they use a local anesthetic so you don’t risk appearing on YouTube afterwards, saying silly things :)) On the downside, this means that they usually do one tooth at a time, so you will need to visit them for a few days in the row.

        • Hello Teil,

          I have edited your comment as it’s not allowed to copy content from a different website over here.

          Regarding the trial, many people believe that justice if finally going to be made. It took them some time and they mostly had to wait before Iliescu’s influence in the leading party went to zero, but it was something that had to be done. These are things that happened 28 years ago, but this doesn’t mean that they should be forgotten or those responsible for what happened shouldn’t be prosecuted.

      • Hi, I can answer that. I’ve just had a smile makeover on majority of my teeth in Bucharest, It cost $9000. with sedation [as I am a coward]

        • We are considering dental and other medical work in Europe.
          Will You please explain exactly what is “Smile Makeover”. I have never
          heard that term. $ 9000. I imagine You have quite a smile .
          Thanks,
          M

  10. Calin, can you tell me what is happening in Bucharest? The Parliament has voted to censure Grindeanu but they can’t get rid of him? A censure is different from a vote of “no confidence?” Can Grindeanu just stay in office until his term ends? If Dragnea’s plans for Romania could be stopped in this way, maybe this is a great!

    • Hello Stuart,

      The Parliament has not voted yet. Things are a bit complicated and I might be wrong since I don’t follow the political scene closely, but I think that if it passes, a new Prime Minister must be chosen and there will be a new government. So if it does get enough votes, Grindeanu will have to leave, but things won’t be extremely easy since the President will have to accept PSD’s proposed Prime Minister or name whoever he wants to. It’s an interesting situation to follow and there are even chances that the motion won’t even get enough votes. Although unlikely at the moment, that would deal a huge blow to Dragnea, but also keep the current government in a difficult spot as some (if not many) of the Ministers are close to Dragnea and would most likely be a minority government.

      • Thank you, Calin. I was watching Grindeanu give a press conference where several journalists were seated to his right and left. He seemed very calm and confident. I am just wondering how it could have come this far. Grindeanu was Dragnea’s hand-picked Prime Minister, all of the Cabinet Ministers were hand-picked by Dragnea. It was his government. And now he is hell-bent on getting rid of Grindeanu. Has Grindeanu grown a spine all of a sudden? One claim is that Dragnea was unhappy Grindeanu wasn’t getting more friendly with Vladimir Putin in Russia like Dragnea wanted. Is this a crazy theory?

        • Grindeanu definitely started to grow a spine all of a sudden. Many people are joking that 5 months ago they were protesting against him and now they’re ready to protest for him. Things are indeed crazy and I heard somewhere (didn’t double check though) that it’s the first time in history that this happens – a party tries to take down their own government. Even more, there will be ministers who will basically vote against them on Wednesday… this proves that Dragnea indeed has a lot of influence over people there.

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